We wish to draw attention to the fact that the changes characteristic of contemporary fatherhood are genuine and correspond to a major transformation, of historical dimensions. These changes, affecting paternal power, are both institutional and juridical and are replacing paternal power with negotiation and shared parental authority. Moreover, these changes reflect and reveal the breakdown and restructuring of maleness, pointing in a historically significant direction, based on “the mobility and flexibility of male↔female identity.” Far from subscribing to the notion of “crisis”, of maleness, of paternity, of authority, this paper focuses on the complex dynamics, made up of contradictions and tensions, but also of liberation and innovation, that characterize today’s parenthood and that are filling the vacuum created by the dynamics of allocation of male and female place and roles with regard to the child.
Starting from a biosocial problematization of fatherhood, the writer suggests that as society becomes more complex, fathers in societies where monogamy represents the norm, are subject to greater social pressure to become directly involved with their children, at an ever earlier stage in the latter’s lives. The paternal role in the child’s awakening to the world (inclusive of the stimulatory and control dimensions) seems to be more and more necessary if the child is to properly adapt to an ever more demanding and competitive social environment. This model is, however, part of a more extensive model dealing with the area of parental complementarity.
Research into matters of paternity requires that the researcher opt for a special sort of spyglass, one that enlarges one’s viewing radius when scrutinizing the object of one’s study. It is a form of research that demands a creative reframing, stimulating new theories, methodologies and practices. Co-opting fathers as subjects of research means going beyond the analysis of the dyadic parental interaction, going beyond the family system, and taking into consideration social, cultural and political environments, while not neglecting the wealth of knowledge already garnered thanks to the long tradition of research focused on mothers. The image of the cartwheel is used here to illustrate the huge challenge awaiting researchers as they attempt to understand a reality whose complexity is masked by its apparent simplicity. And this task must be undertaken, using a positive, reframed approach that will allow us to answer the question: How can this wheel promote or hinder the development or well-being of the members of the family? The present paper attempts to provide some answers to that question, based on a synthesis of the status of Quebec and Canadian research on fatherhood with an environmental approach. This allows us to take into consideration the characteristics of the systemic macro-environment that impact paternal commitments, while at the same time identifying prospective niches that allow researchers and other stakeholders to enhance their knowledge in this field.
The issue. During the post-natal period, fathers are occupied with developing their own concept of what is meant by parental efficiency. But we have little information as to what does indeed help them develop this concept of efficiency. We also have little idea of how the initial transition to fatherhood contributes to the paternal experience. Objective. 1. To identify how first-time fathers perceive the critical events of the postnatal period. 2. To examine the contribution of such events to the construction of first-time fathers’ concept of efficiency. Method. A quantitative descriptive survey of 160 first-time fathers. Results. First-time fathers undergo a richly textured and diversified experience during those first moments of transition to fatherhood. The parental alliance and a low level of anxiety contribute to their concept of efficiency.
The birth of a child is a transitional event that creates stress within the family and calls for the implementation of adaptative strategies that gradually allow the stakeholders to readjust both with regard to themselves and to their partner and to create room for the presence of the new being. If the child is sickly, the amount of stress suffered by the parents will be proportionately greater. Research has demonstrated that faced with a problem of child sickness, mother and father do not react in the same way. The intention of the present paper is to report on the current level of knowledge concerning the way fathers and mothers experience their child’s health issues and to suggest new directions for research that will allow us to better understand their experience.
Separation from bed and board, and poverty constitute a dual threat to the maintenance of paternal commitment. Taking as a starting point the views of separated fathers living below the poverty line and who feel committed to their children, this study attempts to understand how fathers maintain this commitment to their child in the face of adversity. The participants describe various strategies that allow them to maintain their paternal role in a context where they have to deal with a combination of constraints and pressures resulting partly from the break-up, partly from poverty. This analysis brings out elements that appear to have encouraged them to pursue their paternal commitment. A greater understanding of what is at stake in such situations should help those involved to better reflect and act in such a way as to diminish the twin impoverishments that afflict their children: economic disadvantage and loss of a father, both of which are too often the consequences of marital breakdown.
One of the major factors in the promotion of paternal commitment is the ability of organizations and their representatives to contact fathers and offer them activities, services, resources or programs. Thanks to a 2003 survey of over 1000 Canadian organizations, we are in a position to describe the extent of interventions made available to fathers and the obstacles and results that were noted. We are also able to describe changes in such practices, via a sample group of respondents who took part in a similar survey four years earlier. Although we have observed an increase in services offered to fathers, there still remain a number of obstacles to improved access. However, this comparison over time shows that the continuance of services to fathers has lessened certain difficulties and, more especially, has made it easier to contact more fathers with problems.
If one is to analyze social policies with regard to young fathers, one will need to take into account the social policies aimed at young people, young parents and parenthood itself, since they all lie at the heart of their social roles. Based on the documents I have consulted, I note the existence of detailed, in-depth analyses of the issues and needs confronting young parents, but of nothing much concerning the services offered to young fathers. However, when the subject does come up, the approach is quite different from that used for mothers. Even though the issue of paternity is included more and more in recommendations and social policies, one finds significant contradictions between statements of principle and the implementation of services for young parents. The offers of services to young mothers are couched in very specific language; those addressed to fathers content themselves with no more than statements of principle.
For some years now, writers in a number of fields have been affirming that paternal commitment needs to be facilitated by making available social services that are adapted to the needs of fathers. Although the paternal role has become much clearer, researchers and many clinical practitioners remain far from convinced of the usefulness of the father in the equation. Given the issues linking this problematic to that of child protection, the present paper is focused on the following question: «To what extent do the various intervenors involve the father in child protection practices?». To answer this question, in this paper I will first chart available empirical data on the extent to which services are made available to fathers, stressing the specific context of child protection. I will then present and discuss the results of a survey of 229 practitioners working within the area of child protection.